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Monday, May 20, 2024

France seeks revenge for losing Rwanda

By CSMS Magazine staff writers

 More than a decade after the genocide, France, one of the prime accomplices, cannot seem to get over its loss of influence in the central African country of Rwanda. A French judge this week accused Paul Kagame and nine Rwandan officials of being involved in shooting down the presidential plane that triggered the killings that left more than half million people dead. On April 6, 1994, two missiles blew the plane carrying Rwanda’s President Juvenal Habyarimana out of the skies, killing all on board, including the President of Burundi and Rwanda’s army chief of staff. Kagame is the current President of Rwanda. He was the former leader of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) that swept into Rwanda from Uganda in 1994, driving the Hutu regime and the perpetrators of the genocide into exile. Without revealing his evidence, Bruguière, who is a leading anti-terrorist judge in France, called for the arrest of the accused people. The French judge said he would be writing to the United Nations, demanding Kagame be brought before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ITCR) to answer the charges.The Rwandan government quickly retaliated by severing all diplomatic ties with Paris, recalling its ambassador to France and declaring French ambassador persona non grata.However, Bruguière, whose investigation has now lasted eight years, cited as his informants former Rwandan Colonel Bagasora, as well as French mercenary Paul Barril. Bagasora was an advisor to the Interahamwe militia, who were central to the butchery, and it was known that he wanted to see the Arusha peace deal between the RPF and Hutu government scuppered. Burril was closely associated with Habyarimana’s widow Agathe, who was herself involved with Hutu extremists.Observers question the objectivity of Bruguière’s report. Most of the evidence came from two witnesses whose hands are tinted with blood. Deus Kagiraneza, a member of Rwanda’s pro-Hutu government prior to the genocide, described the report as an attempt to exonerate “the Genocide planners and hide France’s role in the genocide of Tutsis.”Another witness, Emmanuel Ruzigana, has described what was attributed to him in the report as lies.“If the truth is ever revealed, and it turns out that the RPF, backed by the US, did fire the missiles, this would not diminish the shared responsibility of France for the genocide. As more and more evidence is leaked revealing the intimate ties between France and the leaders of the genocide, the French ruling elite are trying to deflect world attention away from their role and onto the RPF,” explained the African newspaper Le Soir.France’s ties with Rwanda go back to the 1970s when it took over from Belgium in continuing the tactic of divide-and-rule to suppress the population. Whereas, before World War II, rule was through a Tutsi elite at the expense of the Hutus, this was reversed after the war in favour of a layer of the Hutu population.This state of affairs set in train a turbulent history both under colonialism and after independence, marked by ethnic conflict and killing on both sides. This situation was mirrored in neighbouring Burundi where (as in Rwanda before the advent of colonialism) the mainly pastoral Tutsis and agricultural Hutus had lived side by side peacefully and intermarried.In her book Conspiracy to Murder, Linda Melvern details the close relations between French imperialism and the regime that carried out the genocide. “France was Rwanda’s biggest supplier of arms and sent French troops into Rwanda in 1990 to repel the RPF, which had invaded from Uganda. In the three years of civil war that preceded the genocide, the French military often took command in the field. At the time of the mass killings, 47 high-ranking French officers were embedded in the Rwandan army. In April 1994, French-trained officers from the Presidential Guard eliminated members of the political opposition and figures who supported the Arusha Accords peace agreement. The French also trained the Paracommandos and Reconnaissance battalion that, as soon as the presidential plane plunged to earth in flames, began killing anyone with a Tutsi identity card.”It was only after the slaughter of thousands, and when it became clear that the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) were decisively defeating the Rwandan army, that the French sent in troops under UN cover. France launched an operation called Operation Turquoise designed to provide safe passage out of Rwanda to the perpetrators of the genocide.As the RPF troops swept into Kigali, the capital, tens of thousands of Hutus, including 37,000 troops, fled ahead of the RPF advance to first the southern city of Butare and ultimately into neighboring Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo). There, the set up extremist militias that continued to terrorize those in the refugee camps. The butchers were flown to France or Belgium, where they enjoy immunity today. Despite all the evidence, France still denies its role in the genocide and puts the casualties down to the civil war.France has no shame, and still sees large part of Sub-Saharan Africa as part of its backyard. But it is hard to justify the protection of the ringleaders of the genocide while condemning the liberators.Also see: Multiculturalism and cross-cultural awareness: Not really intertwined (Part III)

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